The next day we tried out the Smith-Berry tasting room. Smith-Berry is of course and enterprise of the Wendell Berry family, and you can buy limited edition Larkspur Press Broadsides of “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” or drop off a book to be signed by Mr. Berry.
Maybe, instead of economists, it’s time to listen to our greatest living Luddite.
Wendell Berry, the noted novelist, poet and essayist who has tilled his Kentucky family farm since 1964, sounds like a prophet for our times with his warnings that technology is not going to automatically save us.
I was reading Wendell Berry’s essay, “The Unsettling of America,” on the subway this morning, in which he describes how the American narrative—and I would add, the narrative of modernity—can be understood by the division between exploitation and nurture. He takes the strip miner as the model exploiter, and the old-fashioned farmer as the model nurturer.
There’s a pattern here, one identified by agrarian philosopher Wendell Berry: “If you put the fates of whole communities or cities or regions or ecosystems at risk in single ships or factories or power-plants, then I will furnish the drunk or fool or imbecile who will make the necessary small mistake.” That may be a “mistake” in construction, or an engineering mistake, or a steering mistake or any of the sorts of mistakes endemic to the complex technological systems that compose our life-support systems.
In The Art of the Commonplace, Wendell Berry states that “birth control is a serious matter, both culturally and biologically,” but what is really “horrifying is not that we are relying so exclusively on a technology of birth control that is still experimental, but that we are using it casually, in utter cultural nakedness, unceremoniously, without sufficient understanding, and as a substitute for cultural solutions . . . and to promote these means without cultural insight.” In other words, a serious matter requiring careful deliberation and sound judgment has been handled carelessly and thoughtlessly—we have been forgetful.
Wendell Berry writes about family and marriage ecologically:
“We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality. But to encapsulate these partial relationships is to entrap and condemn them in their partiality… They are enlivened and given the possibilty of renewal by the double sense of particularity and generality: one lives in marriage and in sexuality, at home and in the world… it is impossible to care for each other more or differently than we care for the earth.”
The other thing I read yesterday was the novel Andy Catlett : Early Travels, by Wendell Berry. It is the story of an old man remembering a trip he took to visit his grand-parents as a nine year old boy in rural Kentucky. Nothing much happens, at least in the conventional sense. There is very little dialogue, less action, and I am certain there is no bidding war underway for the movie rights. (Mind you, I would have thought the same thing about Blindness and Fugitive Pieces, two of my favourite books, both of which have been adapted as movies to be released shortly, and neither of which I will go to see.)
Will Allen, a former pro-basketball player, is leading a movement to introduce food growing practices into urban contexts. He recently won a MacArthur Genius Award, which has significantly raised the profile of his work. His non-profit organization, Growing Power, Inc. boasts the following mission statement: “Inspiring communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time.”
NATHAN SCHLUETER is an assistant professor of political science at Hillsdale College. In this essay he reads Wendell Berry’s novel Remembering in terms of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I think taking a philosophical work and being able to link its concepts to a literary piece is a wonderful gift and Dr. Schlueter’s accomplishment here is no mean feat: “By making detailed what is spare in the myth of the fall, and making concrete what is abstract in the Theology of the Body, Remembering by Wendell Berry brings us tangibly in touch with the primordial memory of wholeness that slumbers in every human heart.” A lengthy read but well worth the time.
“If the Golden Rule were generally observed among us, the economy would not last a week. We have made our false economy a false god, and it has made blasphemy of the truth. So I have met the economy in the road, and am expected to yield it right of way. But I will not get over. My reason is that I am a man, and have a better right to the ground than the economy. The economy is no god for me, for I have had too close a look at its wheels. I have seen it at work in the strip mines and coal camps of Kentucky, and I know that it has no moral limits.
Anybody know the source of this?